Hammond begins job for county


Annapolis Alderman John Hammond began work yesterday as a county employee, but not in the financial officer position he has been offered.

Mr. Hammond was hired as a consultant on a three-week, $4,800 contract to review the county's pension investments and evaluate the operation of its underfunded self-insurance fund. His fee is a prorating of the $76,871 salary he would receive as head of the county's office of finance, said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for County Executive Robert R. Neall.

Mr. Hammond was appointed the county's financial officer two weeks ago. But soon after he accepted the position and before he reported for work, County Attorney Judson P. Garrett Jr. said that the state constitution prohibits Mr. Hammond from remaining on the Annapolis City Council and becoming a county official.

County financial officer, although appointed by the county executive, is considered a public office.

In fact, if Mr. Hammond reports for work as financial officer as scheduled on Dec. 30, he will automatically vacate his City Council position, Mr. Garrett said.

Since hearing the bad news, said Mr. Hammond, who was re-elected last month to represent the city's 1st Ward, he has been going back and forth between accepting the county job and remaining on the City Council. He has been out of work since Dec. 3, when he left a job as an executive vice president with a Long Island insurance company.

"It gives me a little bit of breathing room," Mr. Hammond said of his consultant's job. "I've got at least a couple of weeks to think about it some more. I go back and forth. This allows me a better chance to evaluate the options."

Mr. Garrett said that there would be no conflict if Mr. Hammond acted as a consultant to the county and remained an alderman.

"The work he is doing does not run afoul of the constitutional provision that I was addressing," Mr. Garrett said. "He is not, as I understand it, performing the duties of the financial officer."

Mr. Garrett said that two other county employees, Michael E. Busch and Victor Sulin, also hold elected positions. Both serve in the House of Delegates, but neither holds a Cabinet-level post in the Neall administration similar to financial officer, Mr. Garrett said, and thus do not run afoul of the constitution.

Financial officer is a position created July 1, when Mr. Neall, as part of his government reorganization, merged the controller's officer and the budget office.

Mr. Hammond, who has received opinions on the constitutional conflict from county and city legal officials, said he will request an opinion from the attorney general's office as the last word in the matter.

"I think that will pretty much end the issue," he said.

Mr. Hammond's opponent in his recent re-election campaign, Democrat Craig Purcell, said he thought the alderman should make up his mind.

Mr. Purcell, a partner in a downtown architecture firm, said that during the race, Mr. Hammond accused him of having a potential conflict of interest because he would have to go before city boards and commissions to pursue his projects.

"Why, when I am a consultant, I have a potential conflict of interest, and when he's a consultant, there isn't," Mr. Purcell said. "I find it ironic, frankly."

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